Spirit of Competition? Advertising and the Olympics

The athletes are competing, shouldn’t advertisers be allowed to compete as well?

In the world of athletic competition, the ideals and honor of athletes and the voyage they take in order to be the best among their peers in the realm of athletic competition gives birth to some of the best stories of perseverance. But this story is one that the Olympics committee doesn’t want told.

A new Guinness ad has the still image of Tracy And Lanny Barnes, twin sister biathletes who have been to the Olympic stage and had their share of ups and downs. The ad tells the moving story of how they both have competed in past Olympics with no medals.  This was their last year to compete for a medal. Tracy did qualify, but Lanny become too sick at trials to compete. Tracy gave her spot on the team to her sister, in one of the most unselfish acts of kinship and as well sportsmanship. And yet this tale cannot be told during the pinnacle showcase of international competition, due to sponsorship rules of the Olympics Committee.

According to Adweek ,the Ad was taken down by Guinness for a black out from January 30th til February 26th. This blackout, in a wake of media with Olympic athletes leading up to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, seems uncharacteristic to an advertising plan for Guinness.

If you missed the Ad on TV, don’t be surprised. According to the Huffington Post, it only ran for one day before U.S. Olympic Committee rules forced it to be blacked out from Jan. 30 to Feb. 26. The reason? Guinness happens to be a competitor with an official U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor.

In an event that is built on competition amongst athletes, the world of advertising seems to take a different path. Sponsors can buy out large chunks of advertising or become an “official sponsor” thus alienating their competitor’s ability to advertise during the event or in this case with Olympic Athletes.

This also applies to some of the events that take place during our renowned events such as the Super Bowl, where Budweiser and Coke have cornered their market by producing the only commercials in their market. Gone are the days of strong advertising when people used to watch the Super Bowl in hopes to see brands like Budweiser and Miller duke it out during the commercial breaks. This lack of competition in our current climate may lead to less originality in the creative process of a brand, which could be the reason why we hear friends say that the Super Bowl commercials are getting weaker each year.

Some of the competitors of Budweiser and Coke found ways to get around the commercial buyout, with Pepsi Sponsoring the Half-Time show and Newcastle making an ad featuring “Pitch Perfect” actress Anna Kendrick in a “mega huge game day ad” that the brand “almost made,” and the results according to Newsday were “unexpected and hilarious”.

Although companies find ways to get their brand seen, I still think it takes away from a free market of capitalism.  The free market of advertising rights during special events should be just as competitive, and these “blackouts” because of media monopolies may backfire, cutting into ad industry profits.

– Eric Benson

5 thoughts on “Spirit of Competition? Advertising and the Olympics

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you Eric, the days of strong advertising seem to be over. There used to be a time when competitors would go at each other to see who was the best and now that creative and competitive drive seems to be dwindling. It was never more evident than in this years Super Bowl, in my opinion. Like most people I love football and its ultimate game, but I also look forward to the commercials because they usually provide a spark of entertainment that makes people engage with their friends about their favorite commercials from the big game. Unfortunately this year’s Super Bowl was a blowout, so what was I looking forward to? …that’s right the commercials, and man were they disappointing. Like you said Eric, the buyouts of all the spots by one competitor prevented the creativeness that we all look forward to in the commercials. Without competitors competing against each other this year, the commercials were the weakest they have ever been.

  2. I also agree with this. While I don’t watch sports, and didn’t have any interest in the Super Bowl this year, my family did, and so I was–for lack of a better word–forced into watching it. That means for me, the commercials were what I was looking forward to. I think some of these commercials, or at least the companies, are becoming redundant. Every year, people look forward to the same company(s) to make the best commercials, but they seem to be lacking in originality, or they simply don’t actually advertise the product the company sells until the last few seconds. To me, that’s the pinnacle of of competitive advertising going away: instead of showcasing a product, or displaying how your product is better than a competitors, people are now just looking for what commercial was the funniest, or who got the most attention. It’s time to bring competition back into special event advertising.

  3. I definately like what Newcastle did with their YouTube ad campaign for If We Made it. I think ads like these are great ways to get to niche audiences as I assume that someone who would purchase a Newcastle would prefer a craft beer always over a domestic, and this kind of ad would be appealing because of how it pokes fun at Anheuser’s big budget commercials. By pulling Guinness’s Ad from YouTube I actually think it still benefited Guinness, by pulling the Ad YouTubers began scrambling to upload it, creating a sort of exclusive community in which the appeal of Guinness actually increased because of it being blacked out

  4. What’s frustrating to me is how particular channels in situations like this can own the rights to a particular event- NBC does the Olympics and CBS does March Madness. Obviously a one-time event like the Super Bowl can’t be broadcast on different channels, but having some variety would be nice. By allowing these events to be monopolized, we are opening ourselves up to things like “official beer of the NFL” and minimizing the brand options we view.

  5. In a way I can see this as being unfair, but then again if the company pay’s for the rights for this particular event then who’s to say they don’t have the authority. Now, if there were several instances where year after year the same company is taking over the Olympics for sponsorship purposes then it would be considered unfair. Every company should have the right to display their products just like anybody else at an event. It looks bad for their own business when they don’t allow their competitors to be represented. The question I get from this is what are they afraid to lose? Because someone just might make a better commercial than theirs, that the fans will automatically leave them forever? Honestly, I think they should be more worried about the taste of the product than the commercials.

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